If I ever have a midlife crisis, I’m pretty sure it is going to involve a ship. A big ship. Like an ocean bound salty. I used to think I might give up life as I know it to ride the rails, but lately I’m convinced that I’m really meant for the seas. I can read the Duluth Shipping News like a novel.

My  fantasy was rekindled last week when I got a voice message from a client. It was no big deal, really. He only needed to reschedule our morning meeting regarding the local community education foundation. This particular client also happens to be a Madeline Island Ferry Captain. And here’s where the trouble was. He was going to be tied up all morning. The USCG Alder, a 225 foot multi-mission buoy, would be arriving to cut a channel between Madeline Island and the mainland. This stop would nearly complete the Alder’s month long Great Lakes ice-breaking expedition.

USCG Alder

No problem on my end. I always revel in that liberating sensation of gaining “extra-time” when something gets cancelled – no matter how fleeting or false it may be. So I pour another cup of coffee and take a peek at boatnerd.com, a site that shows real time position of Great Lakes vessels. I see The Alder just entering the south channel.

I will myself back to work, but fifteen minute later, I’m clicking refresh to find the Alder rounding Grant’s Point. I’m still on extra-time, right? I close the laptop, grab my camera and head for the city dock.

Parking is at a premium. Evidentially I’m not alone in wanting to witness this passage into spring. I gather with what feels like about half of Bayfield’s male population to watch the show. The growl of the engines makes my heart leap. I squint to study the little figures on board, making up duties for them, imagining their ship-bound lives.

The majority of spectators depart after the Alder’s first pass, but I find  a seat on the sunny breakwall to wait for another round. Sure enough, as the Alder makes a second approach the ice resumes shifting and I can hear the fresh water sloshing beneath. I can’t see it, but it’s under there somewhere. That’s all the proof I need.

The dock has emptied out, but it’s still bustling. The currently icebound fishing tugs are on their way to being set free. I watch with envy as a handful of commercial fishermen ready their boats for 2013’s inaugural voyage.


My mouth waters at the thought of Lake Trout and fresh Herring. I think of long summer days when we run into town for an afternoon ice cream, a jump in the lake, and a stop at the fish house for a fresh catch to throw on the grill.

Spring and Winter have been duking it out this April. It’s safe to say that Winter currently has the upper hand. Bayfield’s fishing boats only made it out of the Bay a couple of days before a new winter storm system blew in. But this snowy, windy, whiteout only serves to deepen my love of hot summer days. They’ll come, and when they do, you can bet I’ll be ready.

spring dinner

Grilled Lemony Lake Trout

1 whole trout, cleaned (or 2 fillets)
1 lemon, sliced

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt (or Penzy’s English Prime Rub)

Combine the butter, lemon pepper, shallots, parsley, and celery salt.

Lay 3-4 lemon slices on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil that is 3-4 times the width of the fish. Place the fish on top of the lemons. Generously dot the cavity with herb butter and add 3-4 slices of lemon to the cavity and press the fish back together. Dot the top skin with butter. Make a tight foil packet. If working with fillets, make 2 separate packets. Place on a hot grill (about 400ºF) and grill for 20-25 minutes, turning once. Individual fillets will cook slightly quicker. (serves 2)


10 Responses to “extra-time”

  1. 2 Pat Juett April 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I’m pretty sure they would welcome your galley attributes on one of those salties.

  2. 3 Anne-Marie April 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    boatnerds unite! I love that site. Have you ever read John McPhee’s “Looking For A Ship”? You might enjoy it.

  3. 5 Mary April 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I love the last picture, beautiful!

  4. 6 Michelle April 12, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Great blog Jill! Some fun Alder facts – it is driven with joy sticks only and completely and the first captain for about 4 years was a female who is a Green Bay Packer fanatic. The Washburn Marina staff & I are lucky to get tours each spring or fall when they service the buoys. Maybe we can get you on this spring!

  5. 8 Mike Radtke April 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I am glad the meeting with your client was cancelled so you had the opportunity to take in the Alder and fish tug ice ballet. :)

  6. 10 JPO April 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I watched the fishing boats trying to get out one year. It was fascinating! Thanks for the reminder of it.

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